Made by the same team that created Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz is another wonderful example of an increasingly popular type of film; the parodic homage. God I love this genre. I'm a sucker for irony, and this is one of my favorite kinds - where a film, or novel, manages to use a certain narrative mode while simultaneously commenting upon its efficacy, poking fun at it, and being nostalgic for it. And this movie does it so damn well. I've said before how much I adore the cornball action movies from days of yore, and apparently, so do the guys who made this movie. Much like Shaun of the Dead was more than a zombie movie, Hot Fuzz is more than an action comedy.
It must be said, unfortunately, it's not quite as successful as Shaun of the Dead. What made that film so brilliant was that it was simultaneously a zombie film, a sendup of zombie films, and a reflection on what it means to be an adult. So there was a kind of larger goal behind the ironic interaction with the zombie genre that was nonetheless linked to zombie movies - it was also a movie about guys who love zombie movies, and what happens when it's time for them to grow up. Hot Fuzz doesn't quite push through to that larger goal - there's material for it there, but at the end of the day, it kind of gets stuck in the genre play. Which is understandable, because that alone is so goddamn wonderful, but still, I did kind of feel that it was a pity. There are a few major themes that don't really get developed - one is the rule of law, another is the idea of the accident, a third is how society treats its best and brightest, and a fourth is the tension between the urban and the rural, and a fifth is a sort of exploration of media stereotypes and how they create pre-packaged, glamorized identities that people strive to emulate. All of these themes are in the movie and get some screen time, but ultimately the movie doesn't really do anything with them, which is unfortunate, because the film provides fertile grounds for a really fascinating exploration of such issues.
But as I said, the genre play alone makes it a movie worth seeing. It's a virtuoso treatment of the topic - going back and forth between doing those great things that action movies do, and then pointing them out in order to both enjoy and poke fun at them. For instance, Angel kicks a guy's ass, and delivers one of those fantastic one liner puns that makes cheesy action movies so goddamn great. Later, after another fights, his partner asks him "Did you say something clever?" "No," he says, "But you missed a great bit earlier, when I _____", and describes the earlier scene. The self-referentiality of the film is so brilliantly done, it's gorgeous. It's not quite the full on shattering of the third wall, as in Spaceballs when the characters actually watch earlier bits of the movie - it's entirely appropriate that the Onion mentions Mel Brooks in their review of Hot Fuzz - it's a bit more subtle than that. When Angel says "Let's bring this ridiculous story to an end", it's not fully within the context of the events of the moment - and yet it also works on the metalevel. A lovely montage segment in the middle of the film, where the movies that the protagonists are watching are providing the appropriate dialogue for what is going on, unbeknownst to them, just down the road, slyly points to this marvelous metalevel of action. It's so elegantly done, it's great.
And at the end of the day, the movie is also a great screwball action comedy, and can be enjoyed as such. The ironic commentary in no way detracts from enjoying the film on that level - it takes a step back to comment on the genre, but only to appreciate it more. It's fascnating, because it's an intellectual appreciation of a genre that is meant to be good clean thoughtless fun. And the intellectualization of it doesn't nullify the laid back, silly entertainment of it.
Also, by the way, another great gore fest. Some hardcore bloody scenes - the movie doesn't flinch. Blood splatters, people get impaled, and in one memorable moment, an old lady gets her nose broken by a kick to the face. Bam. It's an interesting use of violence, because it's not purely cartoonish. Even when it's funny, it still has a kind of realism to it that gives it a disturbing edge. Very curious.
All in all, a blast. Not to be missed.